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Personalised circulating tumour DNA assay with large-scale mutation coverage for sensitive minimal residual disease detection in colorectal cancer


Postoperative minimal residual disease (MRD) detection using circulating-tumour DNA (ctDNA) requires a highly sensitive analysis platform. We have developed a tumour-informed, hybrid-capture ctDNA sequencing MRD assay.

Personalised target-capture panels for ctDNA detection were designed using individual variants identified in tumour whole-exome sequencing of each patient. MRD status was determined using ultra-high-depth sequencing data of plasma cell-free DNA. The MRD positivity and its association with clinical outcome were analysed in Stage II or III colorectal cancer (CRC).

In 98 CRC patients, personalised panels for ctDNA sequencing were built from tumour data, including a median of 185 variants per patient. In silico simulation showed that increasing the number of target variants increases MRD detection sensitivity in low fractions (<0.01%). At postoperative 3-week, 21.4% of patients were positive for MRD by ctDNA. Postoperative positive MRD was strongly associated with poor disease-free survival (DFS) (adjusted hazard ratio 8.40, 95% confidence interval 3.49–20.2). Patients with a negative conversion of MRD after adjuvant therapy showed significantly better DFS (P < 0.001).

Tumour-informed, hybrid-capture-based ctDNA assay monitoring a large number of patient-specific mutations is a sensitive strategy for MRD detection to predict recurrence in CRC.